‘More must be done to tackle health inequalities’ says College Chair

College Chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne responds to research from the King’s Fund on the impact of poverty on NHS services. 

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS with GPs and our teams making the vast majority of patient contacts - so when our service is under pressure, it has ramifications across the health service. This is what we’re seeing in this report, and our patients living in some of the country's most deprived areas, who are often our most vulnerable, are feeling the impact most.

“Hardworking GPs and our teams are trying to do our best to provide access to safe, timely and appropriate care for patients - just last month we made 32.5m consultations, almost 5m more than in January 2019 - but longstanding failures in resourcing general practice and workforce planning are making this increasingly difficult.

“The unfortunate reality is that we simply don’t have enough GPs to meet current demand, and this is hitting poorer communities the hardest. The average number of patients per fully qualified GP continues to rise and is now an eye-watering 2,294. Practices in areas with the poorest communities have on average 14.4% more patients per fully qualified GP than practices in wealthy areas, yet they receive 7% less funding to cope with the additional needs of their local populations.

“GPs witness daily the devastating health effects that poverty and deprivation are having on patients. The link between poverty and worsening physical and mental health has long been established - and we’ve only seen the situation worsen over the past decade. A 2023 College survey found that 73% of GPs had seen an increase on the previous year in patients presenting with conditions linked to the cost-of-living.

“Much more must be done to tackle health inequalities in the UK - and as the first port of call for most of society’s most vulnerable patients, general practice has an integral part to play in any strategy. At present, we’re unable to keep up with increasing demand and we desperately need to see more funding to ensure we can provide the care our patients need. Our manifesto for the forthcoming general election outlines seven solutions – including greater support for patients in deprived communities - that will help improve access to safe, timely care and ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice and the wider NHS.”

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Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.